March 01, 2014 EXP

Courts as Convenors: An Expanding Role in the Fight against Elder Abuse

By Judge Patricia Banks, Edward W. Madeira Jr.

This spring issue of Experience magazine brings together two remarkable individuals as co-issue editors. Judge Patricia Banks and Edward “Ned” Madeira agreed to tackle one of the most challenging topics in today’s society, that of the abuse, whether financial, physical, or emotional, of our growing elder population. It is abuse that is aptly labeled a “hidden crime.”

Both Judge Banks and Ned Madeira have brought to the task of serving as co-issue editors their profound awareness of the need to make others in the legal community aware of the seriousness of the problem of elder abuse and the potential that is developing for finding creative solutions within our court system.

Because of the groundbreaking work of Judge Banks in the Elder Law Division of the Cook County Circuit Court and Ned’s life-long commitment to the efficacy of judicial leadership in dealing with multifaceted social problems, these co-issue editors were clearly positioned to enlist as authors individuals who are among the most respected and experienced people working in this field.

I would like to express the deep appreciation of the Editorial Board of Experience magazine for the contributions of each of our authors. But most especially, the Board would like to thank our co-issue editors. They have brought this issue to life in a way that is truly eye-opening.

—Malinda C. Allen

Editorial Board Chair

Experience magazine


What opera star Beverly Sills once said about aging applies as well to the elderly with legal problems: “In youth, we run into difficulties. In old age, difficulties run into us.” Navigating legal issues can be daunting for anyone, but for the elderly, difficulties run rampant. In the face of the growing influence of the courts on the lives of the elderly, the legal profession needs to better understand issues affecting the elderly and how to protect their rights and best interests. In this issue of Experience, we explore challenges arising out of the interaction between courts and the elderly, as well as resources crafted by courts and agencies to improve access to justice for the elderly.

It was a rare privilege and pleasure to collaborate with my co-editor Ned Madeira, who exhibited his ability to be a “human sponge” by reading and researching in an area that was not formerly his area of expertise. His wisdom and ability to discern the poignant point of elder law issues was beyond remarkable.

Given the innumerable elder law issues facing courts today, Ned and I were challenged to select articles. However our knowledgeable contributors present a wealth of information on creative court initiatives, innovative responses, and helpful resources. Tools to protect the rights and interests of the elderly permeate this issue, notwithstanding the ever present “elephant in the room”: funding.

Seattle Prosecutor Page Ulrey will keep you captivated as she guides you through the prosecution of an elder abuse case. The plight of the victim she profiles is representative of the difficulties faced by the financially exploited elderly. In “Senior Drivers: A Traffic Judge’s Perspective,” Cook County Circuit Court Judge Freddrenna Lyle writes a provocative yet balanced and sensitive article on a very complex and controversial issue. As elder law court judges, Julie Conger, Joyce Cram, and I co-authored “Elder Protection Courts: Judicial Perspective, Holistic Approach” to advocate for the creation of elder law courts. This article gives a bird’s eye view of how successful courts have been created in California and Illinois. Reducing the stress of foreclosure for the elderly is expertly described by Ned Madeira and Joseph Sullivan via an interview with Judge Annette Rizzo, architect of one of the premiere programs in the nation, the Philadelphia Mortgage Foreclosure Diversion Program. Cynthia Gray, director of the Center for Judicial Ethics at the American Judicature Society, is an authority on judicial ethics who weighs in on a topic critical to the survival of problem-solving courts. Her in-depth analysis of ethical concerns and fundraising gives judges who preside over problem-solving courts much-needed guidance and direction.

Jeff Colman and Danielle Hirsch, both active with the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Access to Justice, have penned an article on access to courts that is a cause for optimism. These authors describe the Illinois experience in working through access issues for not only the elderly but also the indigent, disabled, and persons with limited English proficiency. That over 30 states have similar commissions strongly suggests a priority shift in the right direction. Where we are now and where we started is the subject of comprehensive articles by Brenda Uekert and Richard Van Duizend, whose work for the National Center for State Courts has shed much light on how courts can provide leadership on elder law issues. These articles, replete with resources developed over two decades, are primers for those seeking to develop programs to address elder law issues in our courts. Finally, in the COLA Column, Lori Stiegel, prolific writer and elder law expert, shares her study, analysis, and advice on how best to gather data to measure the effectiveness of court programs.

Here’s hoping that you enjoy the offerings in this issue as much as Ned and I have enjoyed the collaboration.

—Judge Patricia Banks

Co-Issue Editor

Experience magazine, Spring 2014


When asked to serve as co-editor of this issue of Experience, I was fortunate to be paired with Judge Patricia Banks, whose leadership in establishing an elder protection court in Cook County is legendary. My knowledge was minimal, but I quickly found she was a great teacher. We have tried to develop an issue addressing the potential role of the courts in developing programs that anticipate and address the multiple areas of “elder abuse”—referred to in one of our articles as “the hidden crime.”

I have seen in my home state of Pennsylvania how judicial leadership in drug treatment, mental health, veterans protection, and the like can improve our justice system, and that the recognition of “courts as convenors” can bring the various concerned stakeholders together to deal with multifaceted social problems. The concept of judicial convenors addressing elder abuse was, therefore, a natural for me.

After several discussions, Judge Banks and I agreed to several subjects and went about enticing experts on these areas to contribute to our issue.

We were fortunate enough to attract Richard Van Duizend and Brenda Uekert of the National Center for State Courts and their extensive work in the area of elder law. Their articles deal with how courts can take leadership in responding to elder abuse and exploitation and what and where the resources are to deal with elder abuse. It is Dr. Uekert who has termed elder abuse the “hidden crime.”

On a related subject, my partner Joe Sullivan and I interviewed the dynamic Judge Annette Rizzo of the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court about her experience in establishing a Mortgage Foreclosure Diversion Program and the thousands of homes, many involving the elderly, saved from foreclosure. She is the perfect example of a “court as convenor.”

Judge Banks was able to persuade Judge Freddrenna Lyle of the Cook County bench to write on senior drivers from the judicial perspective. This subject has many, many aspects and is an SLD priority for study. Most of our readers can relate to the issues Judge Lyle discusses.

To round out our issue, Judge Banks prevailed upon Cynthia Gray of the American Judicature Society to write on the various ethics concerns for judges who become involved in the so-called “problem-solving” courts, as well as Jeffrey Colman and Danielle Hirsch to describe Illinois’ access-to-justice progress.

We are aware that there is some overlap in these articles, as well as a redundancy of recommendations. These arise out of the meeting of the minds that have come together on this issue from different perspectives and different experiences. The consensus results from a collective understanding of the magnitude of the elder abuse problem, the necessity for judicial recognition of the problem, and the need to convene all those essential to the task of finding solutions.

It has been a privilege to have this opportunity to gain a better understanding of those needs, as well as to be associated with my co-editor, Judge Banks, a pioneer in this important area.

—Edward W. Madeira Jr.

Co-Issue Editor

Experience magazine, Spring 2014

Judge Patricia Banks

Judge Patricia Banks is the presiding judge of the Cook County Circuit Court’s Elder Law and Miscellaneous Remedies Division, a member of the Circuit Court’s Executive Committee, and a member of the ABA Commission on Law and Aging. In addition to her many other appointments and awards, she was the 2014 recipient of the CDEL Impact Award from the Center for Disability and Elder Law.

Edward W. Madeira Jr.

Edward W. Madeira Jr. is chair emeritus and senior counsel at Pepper Hamilton LLP in Philadelphia. Long active in efforts to improve the justice system and address the court funding crisis, Madeira is known, in part, for his work on the ABA’s Task Force on Preservation of the Justice System, Standing Committee on Judicial Independence, and Standing Committee on Federal Judicial Improvements.

Malinda C. Allen

Malinda C. Allen is chair of the Experience magazine Editorial Board, vice chair of the Editorial Committee of The Voice of Experience newsletter, and a past SLD Council member. She is a solo practitioner in Cashiers, North Carolina, where she focuses on elder law matters.